Name expert Marc Picard’s latest book is must reading for anyone with French-Canadian ancestry (or for institutions serving such a population). Monsieur Picard, who has previously written about the etymologies of the French migrants who settled Quebec and Acadia in the 17th and 18th centuries, now follows the spread of those surnames to various English-speaking parts of North America in his Dictionary of Americanized French-Canadian Names. Besides its derivations and Anglicizations, this terrific resource references the first French-Canadian settlers bearing the names found in the dictionary.
Professor Picard explains the development of French-Canadian surnames and their subsequent “Americanization” in his twelve-page Introduction, which, among other things, discusses various kinds of Anglicization, direct translations, partial translation, and mistranslations of French into English. For instance, did you know that Americans named Blair may have inherited their surname from a Canadian named Belair (one of several place-names in France); that the Americanized “Bushey” comes from Boissy; or that Greenwood may have originally been Boisvert? Similarly, while On the Road author, Jack Kerouac, retained his French surname, persons with the American version “Curwick” may have the same ancestors. The last name of former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry comes directly from the French; however, that surname also shows up in the U.S. as Landrey, Landrie, Laundra, Laundre, Laundrie, Laundry, Londeree, Londrie, and Londry. And some Americanizations are phonetically predictable, as in Maurice/Morris, Meilleur/Miller; or Sylvestre/Sylvester; others, however, are less so, as in “Sharkey” from Chartier, Butler from Breton, or Wells from Dupuis.
Each of the thousands of entries in the Dictionary of Americanized French-Canadian Names contains two parts. The first of these is onomastic in nature, providing the etymology of the surname and any Americanized variants from which they stem. The second part contains some or all of the following information: the name of the first French-Canadian bearer of the name, the name of his parents, his place of origin in France, the name of his spouse and the names of her parents, and the place of his marriage. In addition to the Introduction and the dictionary itself, readers will find a brief list of abbreviations used throughout the text and a detailed bibliography of sources.